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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Holidays


Be a thoughtful giver with food items


gift jar with dry cookie mixGifts from the kitchen provide a way to give from the heart. Being fancy or elaborate isn’t important — being thoughtful is.


“Just as in selecting nonfood gifts, it’s important to consider the needs, interests and abilities of the receiver when planning and preparing holiday gifts of food,” said Lynda Johnson, R.D., nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension. Johnson shares some points to consider:


  • Avoid adding nuts or coconut to recipes for very young children or the elderly. In some instances, these ingredients could create a choking hazard. Also, young children may be allergic to nuts.
  • Consider chewing abilities. Sometimes elderly people have tender gums or missing teeth, so softer food items are better suited for them.
  • If you know your recipient has diabetes or is working hard to maintain a healthy weight, don’t tempt them with high-calorie treats. Opt for soup mixes or low-fat, whole-grain fruit breads.
  • Consider the household size. A single person or couple may really enjoy a small fruit basket, but would find a case of grapefruit overwhelming. Give items in proportion to the household size.
  • There is often an abundance of foods during the holidays, so think about a gift for the weeks ahead. Coordinate a festive basket complete with the recipe and ingredients needed to prepare a special meal. Use a theme like Mexican, Italian or German.
  • For your friends or family members who have limited cooking skills, give a Meal of the Month certificate. Pledge to prepare them a meal once per month. This would be a special gift for those who live alone or someone who finds cooking a challenge. Plan to share the gift of your time and enjoy the meal with them as well.


Here is one idea to get you started – Hearty Confetti Bean Soup is an economical and nutritious gift from the kitchen. Beans are high in dietary fiber and low in fat. Put the ingredients in a jar with a festive ribbon and attach the recipe below. The following recipe yields four gift jars or plastic bags of mix that will yield 8 to 12 servings of bean soup (1 cup serving = 160 calories).


Hearty Confetti Bean Soup mix

  • 1 pound dry black beans
  • 1 pound dry Great Northern beans
  • 1 pound dry red kidney beans
  • 1 pound dry pinto beans
  • 1 pound dry green split peas


Seasoning bag:
Cut four 6-inch squares of plastic wrap (or use small plastic sandwich bags). On each square, place 3 beef-flavor bouillon cubes, 3 tablespoons dried chopped chives, 1 teaspoon dried savory, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper and 1 bay leaf. Gather plastic wrap up to form a pouch, and tie with string or ribbon. Place one seasoning bag in each container of bean mix.


Directions to prepare the mix:

  1. In large bowl, mix beans. Spoon this mix into four 4-cup containers (e.g. 1-quart jars or plastic zipper bags), placing about 3 rounded cups in each container.
  2. Prepare seasoning bags. Place one seasoning bag in each container.


Provide the following recipe to gift recipients.


Prepare the Hearty Confetti Bean Soup at least three hours before serving:

  1. Rinse beans from one container of Hearty Confetti Bean Soup mix with cold water and discard any stones or shriveled beans. In 5-quart Dutch oven over high heat, heat beans and 9 cups water to boiling and for cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans.
  2. Return beans to Dutch oven. Add contents of seasoning bag from mix and 5 cups water. Over high heat, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 90 minutes or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add 16 ounces stewed tomatoes with its liquid. Over high heat, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered 15 minutes longer, stirring to break up tomatoes. Discard bay leaf.



Source: Family Nutrition Education Programs (FNEP)


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Last update: Monday, December 05, 2016